Physical Science

“[I]f there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” –C.S. Lewis The Universe had two periods where light was abundant, separated by the cosmic dark ages. The first came at the moment of the hot Big Bang, as…

I was proctoring an exam yesterday in two different sections of the same class, so I had a lot of quite time. Which means I wrote not one but two new posts for Forbes… The first continues a loose series of posts about the exotic physics behind everyday objects (something I’m toying with as a…

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” –H. P. Lovecraft When it comes to risk assessment, there’s one type that humans are notoriously bad at: the very low-frequency but high-consequence risks and rewards. It’s why so many of us are…

“Journalists often ask me when I go to the field, ‘What do you expect to find?’ And my answer always is, ‘The unexpected,’ because we’re just looking at the tip of the iceberg; we’ve just scratched the surface.” –Donald Johanson Imagine you wanted to know what your acceleration was anywhere on Earth; imagine that simply…

On Toys in Science

The big social media blow-up of the weekend was, at least on the science-y side of things, the whole “boys with toys” thing, stemming from this NPR interview, which prompted the #GirlsWithToys hashtag in response. I’m not sorry to have missed most of the original arguments while doing stuff with the kids, but the hashtag…

“One of the dreariest spots on life’s road is the point of conviction that nothing will ever again happen to you.” –Faith Baldwin Bet you thought you knew it all about the asteroid belt. These frozen, ice-and-rock worlds orbit farther out from Mars, closer in than Jupiter, and occasionally get hurled towards the inner Solar…

The Missing Piece (Synopsis)

If you’re not a theoretical physicist yourself, you might think that physics is physics — we ask questions about the Universe, do experiments/make observations, and get the answers — and math is just a tool that we use to help us get there. But that really sells the power of mathematics short. For a physical…

One of the points I make repeatedly in teaching introductory mechanics (as I’m doing this term) is that absolutely every problem students encounter can, in principle, be solved using just Newton’s Laws or, in the terminology used by Matter and Interactions, the Momentum Principle. You don’t strictly need any of the other stuff we talk…

“Without any doubt, the regularity which astronomy shows us in the movements of the comets takes place in all phenomena. The trajectory of a simple molecule of air or vapour is regulated in a manner as certain as that of the planetary orbits; the only difference between them is that which is contributed by our…

“I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.” -Charlotte Brontë Our exploration of the Universe, near…